Saturday, July 11, 2009

Madhu Feast on a grand scale in August

All plans are afoot to hold the annual feast of Our Lady of Madhu on a grand scale from August 6, with Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa MP, personally monitoring the arrangements for the convenience of pilgrims.

A discussion was held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday chaired by Basil Rajapaksa MP with the participation of the Catholic clergy and Government officials involved in facilitating the Feast through various channels to evaluate the progress of the preparations for the occasion. MP Rajapaksa instructed officials to finalise all pre-arrangements by the end of this month, including the upgrading of infrastructure facilities with the provision of other amenities to cater to the large number of devotees expected at this year's feast.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Peace booms fish harvest in Mannar & Trincomalee

Following the lifting of all fishing restrictions in the island's north, over 200% growth in the fish harvest has been reported from Mannar and Trincomalee districts. According to the statistics collected by Sri Lanka Navy , 229% growth in fish harvest and 155% growth in number fishing boats went out sea for fishing have been indicated for 14 days.

Sri Lanka Navy lifted all fishing restrictions imposed on the Island's coastal waters on the 20th June 2009. The measure was taken as a step towards bringing normalcy to the area after the end 30 years terror rule.

The significant growth of 203% in fish harvest has been reported from the Mannar district, after resettlement of 700 displaced families in Musali, Arippu, Swariyapuram, Vankalai and Mannar areas. The resettled fishermen were provided fishing gear and other assistance.

The Northern Province of Sri Lanka alone is comprised of 480 km long coastline, with 250 fishing villages. According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, over 35,000 active fishermen in the Northern Province produce 14000 tons of fish annually. The Ministry sources added that arrangements are now being made to transport excess fish products to Colombo using insulated trucks.

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Sri Lanka post-war tourist arrivals pick up

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's tourist arrivals rose 8.1 percent in June from a year ago, its first rise since May last year, the Indian Ocean island nation's tourism board said, a month after the government ended a 25-year war.
Arrivals in Jan-June fell 16.3 percent to 187,729 compared to 224,363 a year ago, mainly due to a drop in visitors from western Europe and south Asia, data showed on Thursday.

Sri Lanka received 438,475 visitors in 2008, a drop of 11.2 percent from a year earlier. Tourist revenue declined by 11.2 percent to $342 million as visitors stayed away because of intense fighting.

"We expect the arrivals and revenue to remain the same this year as all rooms are already sold. But next year we expect half a million arrivals and $400 million in earnings," S. Kalaiselvam, director general at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority told Reuters.

Britain last week relaxed an advisory warning of travel to Sri Lanka but continued to caution citizens of visiting the north. The United States said last month its travel warning was still active. Britain and the United States together made up a quarter of last year's arrivals.

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Krishna: Sri Lanka has new opportunity

NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on Thursday Sri Lanka assured India that it would soon start an inclusive political process of dialogue and devolution with Tamils in the island nation. He said India would continue to help Sri Lanka in the rehabilitation of people displaced by war.

In a suo motu statement in Parliament, Mr. Krishna said, “We have been assured by the Sri Lankan government of its intention to pursue a political process that envisages a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers.”

Mr. Krishna said the cessation of hostilities gave Sri Lanka an opportunity to make a new beginning and build a better future for all her peoples and, therefore, for the region as a whole.

“We are convinced that a closure to the cycle of violence and terrorism that has plagued Sri Lanka required an inclusive political process of dialogue and devolution. Such a process must address the legitimate aspirations of the minorities, including the Tamil community, within the democratic framework of a united Sri Lanka,” he said.

Referring to the aid and assistance being provided to Sri Lanka, he said, “India will provide every possible assistance in the task of rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction. The government has earmarked Rs. 500 crore for this purpose and was willing to do more.”

Mr. Krishna informed the House that India was engaged in a de-mining process — a prerequisite for displaced people to return to their homes — reconstruction of houses, supply of shelter material, medical assistance, and repair of civil infrastructure.


He said the Sri Lankan government had committed itself to resettling most of the internally displaced persons in 180 days. “The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has visited some of the camps and has been informing us about the developments there,” he said.

Referring to members’ objections to the alleged harassment of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan authorities near the Katchatheevu islands, Mr. Krishna said India was committed to safeguarding the rights of Indian fishermen.

“India continues to closely monitor incidents affecting the safety of our fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka. We have reiterated to Sri Lanka that there is a need to ensure strict compliance with the understanding on fishing arrangements reached between the two countries in October 2008,” he said.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Doctors say 'pressured' by Tigers to inflate Sri Lanka tolls

COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lankan doctors arrested for allegedly spreading rebel propaganda before the defeat of the Tamil Tigers told reporters here Wednesday that they were pressured to inflate death tolls.

A five-member team of doctors who worked inside the shrinking rebel-held territory during the final stages of the war have been in detention since May, but were brought before reporters for the first time Wednesday.

The government has accused them of putting out propaganda for the now-defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the United Nations and the International Red Cross relied heavily on them to coordinate relief.

"The LTTE forced us to give figures (to the media)," doctor Thurairaja Varatharajah said at the government's Media Centre for National Security auditorium. "Figures were exaggerated due to LTTE pressure."
He said they were forced to comply because they were in an LTTE-controlled area. "We had to do what the LTTE told us," he said.

"Now, we are free from any pressure. We can say the truth," Varatharajah said when asked if they were now under any influence from authorities regarding death tolls.

Varatharajah said between 350 and 400 civilians were killed in fighting in the last month of battle while a similar number perished between January and April.

The UN reported that over 7,000 civilians may have perished in the fighting during this year while the government insisted that not a single civilian was killed by its own troops.

The five doctors were arrested when they crossed over to government territory in May just before the leadership of the LTTE was declared wiped out.

The doctors are under police custody and the authorities have vowed to prosecute them although they have not been formally charged.

The government had prevented journalists and international monitors accessing the war zone, where the International Committee of the Red Cross reported an "unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe".

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Saudi Arabia gives humanitarian aid to IDPs

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, has ordered food aid and other forms of assistance be sent to Sri Lanka to help the government face the current humanitarian difficulties in the country as a result of the displacement of tens of thousands of people from their homes.

A statement from the Ministry of Finance Tuesday said that two Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft transporting aid would leave for Sri Lanka this week.

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President to make dramatic changes

Media Minister LakshmanYapa Abeywardena yesterday said the President is poised to make dramatic changes in the legal system in the country to control rising criminal activities and to create a law abiding society in the country.

The Minister in response to various speculation made in the media over the appointment of Minister Milinda Moragoda as Justice and Law Reform Minister yesterday said this ministry is one of the few most important ministries in the country and this was held by politicians of the calibre of Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Colvin R. de Silva and Nissanka Wijeratne.

"No one is above the law and all people should duly respect the existing law and order of the country. The government through the appointment of Minister Moragoda to the Justice and Law Reform Ministry expects to make necessary amendments to the existing law to control criminal activities and establish a society of high moral values.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Army Nears Completion of Somawathiya-Seruwila Road Project

MULTI-TALENTED Army troops, now in the process of undertaking responsibilities, related to development work, are about to complete one more gigantic project in the East after it was entrusted to the Army just fifteen months ago.

Three phases of the Somawathiya-Seruwavila (A-15) road restoration and construction project that covers a stretch of about 30.7 km were entrusted to the Army Engineers back in April 2008 after the Army cleared those areas of the terrorism that affected those areas for so many years.

Army Engineers under the phase one completed construction and restoration from Seruwavila to Arippu Junction, a distance of about 6.7 km. Under the second stage, troops cleared jungle areas on both sides of the road and laid out the draining system extending up to Verugal Aru. That covered another stretch of about 7 km. This jungle clearing is still continuing. The first layer, stretching about 700 m from Thrikonamadu towards Kinnerikulam was successfully laid in time despite rains and other natural impediments.

The Army expects to clear jungles from Thonithatumadu to Verugal Aru, construction of the draining system and culverts, and filling of the road from Arippu Junction up to Thrikonamadu within next couple of months. The Army with the help of its machinery plans to complete the entire project within next eighteen months.

The entire Army’s involvement will cover 45 km while Mahaweli Authority and Road Development Authority are expected to complete the remaining phases.

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